You’ve heard it before. The dreaded S word when homeschooling comes up in conversation. There are tons of great writing out there about it. I wanted to share my take.
When I’m asked about socialisation, I will ask back: What do you mean by socialisation? What is it that concerns you? (because I guarantee we have it covered)
Do you mean social interaction? If so, we have opportunities for so much authentic social interaction with people of all ages including groups of kids in co-op, out in the community and with ‘play dates’. Daily. There are much less limits in time and freedom too.
With regards to social interaction, we almost have to reign back! Honestly it’s intense and awesome and there is so many opportunities for authentic friendships and interactions.
As I’ve spoken about previously, we actually chose to educate without school because of the limitlessness of many things – including genuine relationships with people of all ages outside the confines of an institution.
It’s meaningful too as its chosen by the child and not enforced. Not to mention that the negative aspects of age-based peers are minimised (social hierarchy, peer pressure, bullying). Please don’t let anyone tell you these negative things are needed to prepare children for the real world!
One great article on the limitations of age-based socialisation says:
Grouping children by age, or even within the span of a couple of years, is like putting the blind with the blind. It often results in some of the most undesirable children’s behaviors and can produce failing social habits. These behaviors are not natural to children but rather induced by this artificial setup.…We need not teach social skills any more than we need to teach a baby to walk. Relating to socially competent people, the child acquires these skills in the process of living and loving, authentically and in her own time. Learning through such intimate and deep connections with those who love her, she will most likely create similar lasting friendships and behave with social grace. In being the author of her social connections she becomes self-confident, which is perhaps the greatest asset for relating and contributing to society.
Do you mean social norms and conformity? Because we don’t agree with the societal pressure to ‘fit in’ or obey in the sense that mainstream society does. My kids will learn social customs through our opportunities to interact and form relationships. It may look different and not be like everyone else but we celebrate that!
So often the stereotypical view of homeschoolers being ‘weird’ or having issues with socialising are based on outdated myths. Modern homeschooling is so vastly different to the perpetuated idea that the parents choosing to educate outside of school are doing so to shelter their kids or for religious reasons. Sure, there are parents who still choose that but for the vast majority of us – myself included – these are not factors that influenced our choice.
Or do you mean social skills? Of which we have countless opportunities to learn and process them and it helps that there is always an adult/parent available. Conflict, for example, can be resolved with someone who understands how to process the strong emotions involved.
The majority of social skills and morals and ethics are primarily learned within families as it is. Not to mention all the types of socialisation. It’s a complex but natural process. Like learning, socialising is not something that school holds the key to.
Peer groups are important, that’s for sure. But without school kids still easily form peer groups. Like learning, it’s almost impossible not to. Without school, kids still form a social identity. They still can assimilate popular culture and learn unity and what communication involves.
Humans of all ages naturally form groups and learn with and from one another. There is no big struggle when you’re consensually living and learning with children for them to socially interact and explore the world together. It’s a non-issue when you live around other humans and immerse yourself in life.
So what about socialisation? I’d challenge others to question the same about socialisation in schools.
Thank you for reading!
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Kate from Everyday Story wrote a good post on this recently touching on a different aspect of social interaction. Not just being around other kids or learning social rules, but peer learning. I think it depends on your educational philosophy, but if you lean towards a Reggio approach or constructionism, you feel that people learn best not in isolation but with others. Not side by side learning but learning from one another, sharing ideas, learning from others’ mistakes. And yes, having differently aged peers together so that you learn to from more skilled mentors as well as having time being a leader too. Does school offer all this? Not necessarily, although in Australia there are certainly a lot of schools which focus some time doing joint projects pretty regularly (our local school does project time across age groups each afternoon). I’m sure there are plenty of schools that don’t do it, but in Australia at least it would be the norm to do some group work regularly. Having said that, it’s rarely child-led, which would be the ideal – an assigned project with goals meaningless to all members of the group would be a pretty painful exercise!
Anyway, while I agree that school doesn’t hold the key to socialisation, I just wanted to add this other aspect that sometimes doesn’t get discussed in homeschooling circles.
Yes, I read that one. Peer learning happens naturally in groups – just today we had kids working together to put together renewable energy modules and learning from and with one another. It’s evident constantly and I agree that it is valuable. I don’t, however, think it’s an issue or something that works for every child.